On my first official day in Taiwan (March 30, 2012), I had no idea what to expect. I hadn’t been to this country in over 10 years, and I honestly didn’t remember most of it when I was little. We stayed at the Ambassador Hotel located in Kaohsiung on the 19th floor, and had a pretty decent view of the things surrounding us.
This river right next to my hotel is actually called the “Love River” where people are able to take ferries and sightsee along it. Many couples will go at night and whatnot. In the beginning, I really wanted to go on this (even though everyone said it was just stupid), but later I found out that a long long time ago, people used to commit suicide off the bridges along the river. I don’t fancy rivers with dead bodies in them.
Another thing I noticed is that the whole city of Kaohsiung is covered with smog. There’s just so much pollution there, you can’t see bright blue skies or fluffy white clouds. And a lot of shipping boats.
I really did like being able to see the mountains in the distance. I don’t get to see much of them from where I live.
Anyways, I started off the day by waking up at 5:41AM (courtesy of my parents), unpacking some stuff, and getting ready to go downstairs to enjoy a complimentary breakfast buffet provided by the hotel. I always knew Taiwan food was a little different, but I didn’t remember how different.
This is basically what I had for breakfast. The biggest plate consists of: (2) slices of cheese, (1) stick of a Chinese version of a breadstick, (1) small portion of a Chinese sausage, (2) strips of bacon, (1/2) of a salted duck egg, (1) piece of toast, and a portion of mashed potatoes with melted cheese on top. The two smaller plates had an omelette and salad. The contents of the omelette were: cheese, onions, corn, ham, and tomato, I liked it. The salad just had cheese, greens, bacon bits, croutons, and thousand island dressing. They had a bunch of other foods too:
After breakfast, we took a walk to the local bank to exchange our USD (United States Dollar) to NTD (New Taiwan Dollar). The streets of Taiwan are somewhat different to those over here, and the buildings…they look a little run down sometimes (but it’s cool looking!).
Once we were done with exchanging our monies, the real sightseeing part started to happen. My family rented a van for the day to visit this monastery called Fo Guang Shan, created by Venerable Master Hsing Yun that promotes Buddhism and it’s teachings. It’s famous for the “tooth relic”, located in a building.
It was a HUGE place overall, and at the end of the the grounds, there was this ginormous Buddha statue. Look for yourself!
Around it were these buildings – i’m not sure whether it was for educational purposes or what. I did watch an educational video in one of them though. Here’s the view:
Around the temple with the big Buddha statue, there was a wall of (?) statues. Seems like they represented different things.
The main attraction was the building under the big Buddha. Inside that building was almost a museum of sorts, they had smaller rooms that described the different parts of Buddha’s life, how he reached nirvana, about the person that created this temple, etc. There was a lot to see.
After looking through all the rooms, we finally ended up at the “Tooth Relic” room. Unfortunately, pictures were not allowed in this room. The room though, was pretty magnificent. All the walls were made out of wood, and it was carved to show the finest of details ever. The floor had red carpet (you had to take off your shoes to enter the room), and in the center of the room were these small benches you could kneel on and pray. And, at the very front of the room, at the top, in the center, was this viewing window of the “tooth relic.” I’m not sure why they call it a “tooth” relic, it doesn’t look whatsoever like a tooth. It’s just a relic, made out of what looked like gold, and about the size 6 Kleenex boxes stacked vertically. The relic’s history is what makes it important. We went back to the entrance building, which was just a cafe of different shops and foods. This one woman tried to pressure me into eating a sample of a mochi. Giving in to peer pressure, I started to struggle and jab at this mochi sample with a toothpick. I was skeptical of its contents.
Just as I’m about to pick it up, she smiles this great big blinding smile, and tells me in English, “PEANUTS!” I’m highly allergic to peanuts.
I respond with, “No, no no no. No no no no. Thank you.” She almost killed me yet saved my life.
After about 4-5 hours of just looking around this place, we were finally done. It was a nice place to look at, and a lot of historical information was learned. Once we got back to the hotel, we rested up a bit and then went to my aunts house. At around 6, (her son), my cousin – Sean, came back from work, and him, my cousin Tina, my parents, my sister, brother-in-law, and I all went to this local mall that I had my eye on since the day we got there. When landing at Kaohsiung, I saw this insanely large glowing round spinning object thing – a ferris wheel! I could also see it from my aunts balcony of her apartment building, and my goal was to ride it. First, we had dinner (all of us got different things to eat – I got katsu donburi, which is Japanese. It has fried pork cutlets over rice that’s coated with scrambled egg and a sauce. I basically had this everyday when I visited Japan, it is so so good). After that, we were going to go ride the ferris wheel which I was pretty excited about. First thing though is always a trip to the bathroom, I didn’t want to have a freak accident where I pissed my pants because the height of the ferris wheel was too scary…so I went to pee. Once I got out, my cousins Tina and Sean were at this lottery booth, buying lottery tickets for giggles. They bought the cheapest lottery tickets (100 NT dollars) and of course, I didn’t want to be left out so I got one for myself with the help of Tina. It was some kind of egg looking one, where you would have to scratch the eggs off and match those numbers to the default numbers. I scratched, and I didn’t get any matching numbers. I gave up, but then my cousin Sean told me to scratch everything out, so I did. When I did, I saw this picture of a golden egg but didn’t think twice about it. Tina looked closely at the print at the bottom of the card, looked at the golden egg I scratched, and started jumping in the air. I had no idea what was going on, but apparently if you scratch out a golden egg, you also win money! TL;DR: I didn’t fully scratch out my lottery card, but when I did, I discovered that I won 500 NT dollars when I bought it for 100 NT dollars. That’s roughly 20 US dollars.
I took that money to buy my sister, brother in law, and myself tickets to ride the ferris wheel…which was amazing. My sister did not find it amazing though, she was in fetal position the whole time.
After the ride, I played that basketball arcade game with my cousin Sean. We got a pretty decent score (it was also a new high score which I am proud of), but my arms hurt at the end of that. I have spaghetti arms. Following that, we met up with my cousin Jonathan, his parents, and his girlfriend. We chatted for a little bit, then went to get Starbucks for everyone. I got a caramel frappuccino like I always do in the states. Little did I know, Taiwan (and maybe other places too) have a different variation of it! It was the same thing, but when I carefully examined my drink, there were little black beads in the drink. At first I thought they were just roughly ground up coffee beans, but they were not. Turns out they were little chocolate beads in the drink, which is a nice surprise.
And while I was walking around through the mall, they had an outdoor fountain and these little characters were in it. I think they’re the characters from this restaurant called “Magical Open Kitchen.” The lights changed colors too!
Day One in Taiwan – complete.